Friday, April 11, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Friday, July 11, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, election season heats up in Iraq, what is the status on Iraq's president who's been out of the country for over year, and more.

Let's start with some wisdom from Noam Chomsky.

  • I mean, suppose it was true that Iran is helping insurgents in Iraq. I mean, wasn’t the United States helping insurgents when the Russians..

    1. ... invaded Afghanistan? Did we think there was anything wrong with that?

    From wisdom, let's move to confusion: the status of Iraq's president.  

    December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

    This week, Rudaw noted the rumors that Jalal might "soon return to Kurdistan" and quoted his son Qubad stating Jalal was "willing to return."  Dropping back to the April 3rd snapshot:

    Here are all three photos:

    Jalal may not be able to fulfill his duties as president but he's clearly the new reverse Streisand.  For years (up until Funny Lady), Barbra hated to be filmed from an angle that emphasized the right side of her face.

    For some reason, Jalal refuses to show the left side of his face.

    That's true in the photos above, true in all of the photos released so far including back in May of 2013 when  Jalal was posed for his first series of photos (below is one example).


    What's wrong with Jalal's right hand?  And why does the Talabani family keep releasing still photos instead of video?  Can Jalal speak?  What range of motion is he capable of?

    Like all the previous photo releases, the latest ones don't answer those questions.

    The only advance evident in the latest photos is that Jalal can now smile and show teeth.  That's not sarcasm.  Whether he can do a full smile or not is unknown.  He may only be able to manipulate the right side of his mouth.  Clearly, his recovery has not been the 'progress' that the Talabani family has repeatedly announced.

    Rudaw noted this week:

    Since December 2012 when Talabani was rushed to Germany after a serious stroke, the PUK has only released some photos of the ailing leader. But there have been no videos to show the extent to which Talabani -- who is also Iraq’s president – is able to move or talk. The pictures alone have not been enough for the public to gauge the degree of the ailing leader’s recuperation.
    Latif Rasheed, who is the husband of Talabani’s sister-in-law and appeared in the president’s latest photos, said those pictures were taken last Newroz.
    [. . .]
    Rasheed also added that, “In the future videos and photos of Talabani will be released.” But he did not say when that would be, nor did he give any other details.
    However, a source close to the Talabani family denied speculations both of his imminent return or that videos of him would be released anytime soon. “No videos of Talabani will be released,” the source said.

    Why no videos?

    What is clear is that Jalal should have been relieved his duties.

    He's not done is job since December 2012.

    APA reported Thursday on the rumors that Jalal was dead -- rumors which include he's dead and has been dead and that the Talabani family plans to announce the death immediately after the elections are held.

    And as elections approach, the need for a president is felt even more.  Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) reports:

    On April 4, the Iraqi Council of Ministers endorsed the “national safety” bill, which regulates the state of emergency and defines the prime minister’s powers and the steps he can take during “emergency” measures, which mostly fall under “martial law.”
    However, the bill sparked a controversy when it reached parliament and was published. Most of the debate focused on fears that “the law could be abused by the government to liquidate its opponents,” according to former Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who pointed to a number of deficiencies in the bill’s mechanisms and loopholes.
    Other political parties wondered why the bill was proposed just ahead of the elections, and suspected that the timing pointed to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s intention to cancel the elections and dissolve parliament. 
    Raising suspicions further was the fact that the bill, which requires a two-thirds vote in parliament in accordance with Article 61 of the constitution, is being put forth at a time when parliament is unable to hold a regular session to approve the budget. This prompted the parliament’s rapporteur, Mohammed al-Khalidi, to say, “The government sending the National Safety Law to parliament is evidence of [its] failure to provide security, which it hasn’t achieved in the last 10 years.” He expected the bill to be moved to the next session. 

    Nouri wants a third term as prime minister -- many fear it.  After two failed terms, it should be obvious how little Nouri has to offer other than attacks. His State of Law coalition should be a concern all itself.  Ali Mamouri (Al-Monitor) reports:

    Kadhem al-Haeri, a cleric who has close ties with the Islamic Dawa Party and the Iranian regime, issued a fatwa March 30 banning the election of secular candidates in the upcoming elections. Large banners were hung in many areas of Baghdad and included a picture of the marja (spiritual guide) and the signature of the party’s office. The banners read: “It is forbidden to elect secular candidates.” The banners, hung late in March, are still present in some areas in Baghdad.
    This fatwa has come in tandem with a media attack by ruling Islamic parties against the secular movement. The official media outlets of these parties are constantly instilling fear among the people regarding the “dangerous agendas” of secular candidates, claiming they have links to foreign parties and ties with the former regime.
    A good example of this drive is what recently happened to civil activist Hanaa Edwar, known as the "Mother Theresa of Iraq" for the large-scale humanitarian services she provides there. Almasalah, affiliated with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, accused Edwar of raising the old Iraqi flag from the era of deposed President Saddam Hussein and of being involved in corruption cases, without presenting any documents or supporting evidence. The website also described her critical stance against Maliki and the Iraqi government’s violations of human rights during a conference held by Maliki himself in 2012 as “exhibitionist, theatrical and characterized with overreaction and self-inflation.”

    Related, Hamza Mustafa (Asharq Al-Awsat) notes,  "In a press conference last week, Sadr called on Maliki not to run for a third term. He said: 'Brother Maliki thinks he served Iraq. Let him rest for four years, and see if whoever comes next would serve better.' "

    Saad N. Jawad (MiddleEastOnline) offers:

    Meanwhile, al-Maliki is already working hard and effectively to eliminate his rivals and critics. His policy is to alienate possible rivals by discrediting them through the courts, accusing them of involvement in criminal acts or corruption (even if they have not been sentenced) or of being former Baathists (through the de-Baathification committee, known as the High Commission for Justice and Accountability). It has also been rumoured that al-Maliki has been giving loyal members of the armed forces two electoral cards, and not distributing these cards properly in areas where he thinks his popularity is low.
    These tactics of rigging elections and referenda have been used before. During the referendum on the permanent constitution, the government tampered with the results in order to prevent three provinces from rejecting it. There are indications that the US embassy, which was pressuring all the political coalition to approve the constitution in order to justify the US strategy of pulling out of Iraq, approved of this method by not objecting to it. When the results from Anbar and Salahuldin (Tikrit) provinces were negative, the government then tampered with the results from Ninevah (Mosul), claiming the no votes did not constitute the majority needed to reject the constitution. Another method was not to send ballot boxes to areas regarded as being against the constitution.

    One of Nouri's rivals  almost didn't have more time to serve today -- he was the target of an assassination attempt today.   World Bulletin reports, "Iraqi Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq and lawmaker Talal al-Zawbai survived an attempt on their lives in western Baghdad on Friday."  DPA notes the attack took place in Abu Ghraib.  al-Mutlaq is running for re-election.  Parliamentary elections are supposed to take place April 30th.  al-Mutlaq is a Sunni and, until 2013, was considered part of Iraqiya (the coalition that won the 2010 parliamentary elections besting Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition).  AFP reports:

    While an interior ministry official said only that gunmen attacked the convoy, Mutlak's assistant specifically blamed the army.
    "We were the target of an assassination attempt by the army who opened fire on us, and the bodyguards responded in the same way," the assistant said, without elaborating.
    There is widespread anger among Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, which complains of being marginalized and mistreated by the Shiite-led government and security forces.

    BBC News notes that al-Mutlaq's "office said the gunmen were in fact Iraqi soldiers, and a source described the encounter as a 'scuffle'."  National Iraqi News Agency reports:

    Al-Arabiya Coalition headed by Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, counted on Friday the assassination attempt against al- Mutlaq as an attempt to get rid of the national symbols and personalities.. for the implementation of suspicious projects and schemes.
    A spokesman for the Coalition Muhannad al-Bayati said in a statement to the National Iraqi News / NINA/ that the assassination attempt against al- Mutlaq aims to remove him from the concerns of people.

    Saad Abedine (CNN) reports, "One of al-Mutlaq's bodyguards died in the attack, and five others were injured."  BBC offers, "His office also told the BBC that, contrary to earlier reports, nobody was killed in the fighting."  AP notes, "A group of armed men in army uniforms and driving military vehicles opened fire at their convoy, triggering a shootout with guards and soldiers protecting al-Mutlaq, said al-Zobaie." Sherif Tarek (Los Angeles Times) explains, "In the upcoming elections, more than 9,000 candidates will compete for 328 seats in parliament."

    al-Mutlaq and al-Zobaie weren't the only politicians who were targeted today.  NINA reports:

    A bomb exploded on Friday outside the home of a candidate for / Arab Kirkuk / Coalition in Wahed Huzairan neighborhood in Kirkuk .
    A security source told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA/ that the bomb was exploded outside the home of a candidate for / Arab Kirkuk / Coalition Yacob al-Emara, and the blast wounded his wife and son , as well as causing major damage to the house .
    It is worth mentioning that al-Emara has been subjected three years ago in to an assassination attempt by adhesive bomb in his car led to his badly injured.

    In other election news, Alsumaria reports a candidate has been arrested for attempting to buy electronic voting cards.  They offer this report on why some citizens might sell the cards (poverty).  All Iraq News reports,  "The Kurdistani Alliance announced its rejection to the nomination of the Premier, Nouri al-Maliki, for a third term of the Prime Minister's post."

    If elections do take place April 30th, parts of Anbar Province will not be participating in the elections.  From Tuesday's snapshot:

    Dar Addustour reports that IHEC's Muqdad al-Shuraifi held a press briefing with the Supreme Security Committee in Baghdad today  in which he announced that not all areas of the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province will be able to vote because the IHEC will not send staff and supplies into areas they deem unstable. That's hilarious and sad at the same time.  Baghdad will be allowed to vote, its inhabitants will vote in polling stations throughout the city.  But Baghdad's experienced high levels of violence -- see-sawing with Falluja in the last nine months for who was most violent.  But Baghdad will be allowed to vote.
    March 31st,  All Iraq News reported, "The employees of the Independent High Electoral Commission in Siniya district of nothern Tikrit have resigned due to the threats of the armed groups."
    But Tikrit will be allowed to vote.
    It's really hard to believe that the decisions are really just about fear of violence.  It's hard to believe that the strong opposition to Nouri isn't part of the reason.  (Yes, Tikrit is Sunni dominant.  It saw protests against Nouri -- as did Sunni dominant Mosul.  But the protests were nothing like the ones which took place in Anbar.)
    But if it really is about fear of violence, possibly it's about the fear that Nouri's military will start bombing the polling centers.

     Jason Ditz ( notes the continuous efforts to disenfranchise Anbar:

    Yet that seems to be what is happening in Iraq’s Anbar Province, where the central government is treating it less and less like an equal province and more like a tribal frontier where locals enjoy fewer rights.
    We’ve been seeing the first steps toward this for months, with the conspicuous exclusion of Anbar from official government monthly reports on violent deaths, even though it is the province with the largest number of such deaths.

    Nouri has no leadership skills and lacks common sense as well.

    When an area already feels disenfranchised, if you're seeking peace, you don't make them feel even more disenfranchised.

    At every opportunity to bring Sunnis into the fold, Nouri has instead attacked.

    He has no skills, he has nothing to show for 8 years as prime minister -- nothing but a death toll.

    Nouri al-Maliki's ongoing assault on the civilians in Falluja continues and he got three 'kills' today.  How proud the thug must be.  Alsumaria reports three children were wounded in the bombing of the residential areas of Falluja and 3 more children were killed.

    If you missed it, every outlet attempted to cover Saleh al-Mutlaq today.

    It's a real shame that the Associated Press, the BBC, and so many others refused to show the same concern when it comes to 3 dead children.

    But they never do.

    The treat any politician almost harmed -- almost -- as news but left children die and they look the other way.

    Let's turn to some of today's violence.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Ghatoon-Razi roadside bombing left 1 man and a child dead (with three more people injured), 2 rebels were killed in a battle near Aladheim, a Halawah Village bombing left 1 person dead and nine more injured, and Joint Special Operations Command announced they killed 44 suspects in Anbar.  All Iraq News notes that 1 woman (a teacher) was shot dead in Mosul.   Alsumaria adds the corpse of a police member was discovered outside of Kirkuk, hours after he was kidnapped and that two people in Ramadi were injured by a rocket attack.  Margaret Griffish ( counts 54 dead today.

    mushreq abbas